Over at Grasping for the Wind, John has compiled a large list of speculative fiction book reviewers. Here is the full list if anyone wants to check some of them out.

Click here to view list

Goodreads features book giveaways and right now they have one for 3 ARCs of Seanan McGuire’s debut, Rosemary and Rue (just scroll down or search the page for the title). Currently, I’m working on a review of this novel and was going to mention the giveaway in the review, but I just checked the end date of the contest for it and it’s August 21. Since that’s this Friday and I’ve still got some work to do on the review, I figured I’d better mention it now.

Overall, I enjoyed the novel. It’s an urban fantasy and it didn’t strike me as anything that unusual for the genre. It was fun to read, though, and I am eager to read the next book, particularly since it did have one character I LOVED and really want to read more about. For an ARC, it was also fairly free of errors (I noticed some minor ones but nothing too glaring) so if you hesitate to read ARCs for that reason, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. If you want to know more about it while I’m still working on my own review, there are plenty of reviews for it on Goodreads, LibraryThing, and Amazon.

Harry from Temple Library Reviews has been running a series in which he interviews various SFF book bloggers called Reviewer Time. Today it was my turn so if you’re curious about what I do during the day, my secret talent, how the blog started, or anything else about me read the interview.

The Book Smugglers has been celebrating YA Appreciation Month with a whole bunch of reviews and giveaways of YA books as well as interviews/guest posts with some authors who write YA. They posted an open invitation to other bloggers to post reviews or articles about YA books on August 15 and I decided to participate. It was tough to pick a book to review but I ended up settling on the sequel to a very good book I read earlier this year. All the posts about YA books from today’s open invitation can be seen here.

Dreamdark: Silksinger
by Laini Taylor
464pp (Hardcover)
My Rating: 9/10
Amazon Rating: N/A
LibraryThing Rating: 4.6/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.83/5

Silksinger, the second book in the Dreamdark series by Laini Taylor, will be released on September 17, 2009. The first book in this YA fantasy series is Blackbringer, and although it is not crucial to read it before Silksinger, I would recommend doing so since it contains a lot of background information on the world and some of the characters. Also, like the newest Dreamdark novel, Blackbringer is a wonderful story that is full of vibrant characters.

The remaining members of the Silksinger faerie clan are pursued by devils and forced to flee their home. Soon young Whisper finds herself the very last of her clan when her grandparents sacrifice themselves in order to save her in hopes that she can perform the clan duty. Though they were believed to be wiped out long ago, the Silksingers have actually been guarding Azazel, one of the seven Djinn who created the world. Azazel promised he would awaken again if they brought him back to his throne so it is now up to Whisper to make sure he gets there. All alone with nothing but the tattered clothes on her back and the teakettle containing Azazel, it seems hopeless that quiet little Whisper will be able to get a caravan to her destination – at least until she meets Hirik, a young mercenary who also has a secret.

Meanwhile, Magpie Windwitch, her friend Talon and her band of crows are attempting to find all the Djinn. In order to locate them, they have enlisted the “help” of Batch Hangnail, an imp who can only be coerced into joining them with the promise of the one thing he has always dreamed of: flying. Talon has the ability to create skins and will make one for Batch modeled after any type of wing he wants once their mission is over. However, the group does not get very far before they hear of Whisper’s plight and determine to guide her to safety.

Blackbringer was a fine debut and I had a lot of fun reading it, but I thought Silksinger was even better than the first installment. I really loved everything about Silksinger – the succinct yet descriptive writing, the pacing, the characters, and the world and its history. It also contains a few illustrations by Jim di Bartolo, the author’s husband. Not only are the pictures lovely but they also tend to look very close to what I pictured in my mind when reading about the characters depicted. If I had one complaint about this novel, it would be that it was predictable at times, but that is really a very minor criticism since it did not lessen my enjoyment much. Plus there was a part toward the end where I was caught by surprise, although the way it turned out made far more sense than what I had believed to be the case.

For about the first half of the book, more time is spent with the new characters (Whisper and Hirik) than with Magpie, who was the main character in the first book. Normally, when I read a book in the series and the focus drifts away from the main character, I become impatient and find I just want to read about the character I’ve already become attached to. In the very beginning, I did want to read more about Magpie than Whisper or Hirik, but it wasn’t very long before I found myself captivated by both new characters. In fact, even though I still loved Magpie, I found myself more excited to be reading about Whisper or Hirik. By the end of the book, Magpie was the primary character again, but as much as I’d come to love the Silksinger and the mercenary, I still wasn’t disappointed – it was time for Magpie to be in the limelight again and that’s what worked.

The characters are so well drawn and memorable; Magpie and Whisper are my favorites. Magpie is the same fierce, feisty warrior she was in the first book. She’s loyal to her friends, has dedicated her life to fighting devils and she’s basically impossible not to like. Although she is generally good, she is tough and is not always perfect – she does make a bad judgment call at one point that costs her dearly. In contrast, Whisper appears very different from the outspoken Magpie, although she is a lot stronger than she seems. The Silksingers are named because they have the ability to weave magic with their singing, and they use this magic to make flying carpets. (As scamperers, the Silksingers do not have the ability to fly themselves since their wings are too small to carry them.) Whisper’s voice is especially powerful, but she has never learned to fully master it so she usually whispers. Yet Whisper is very determined, and throughout the story, no matter what is happening to her, she clutches that teakettle containing Azazel like her very life depends on it. I liked Hirik almost as much as Magpie and Whisper, but I’m going to avoid talking about him too much for fear of giving away too much about his secrets.

Other than the characters my favorite element of the series is the world of Dreamdark itself. The world of Dreamdark (and beyond, really, since most of this book takes place outside of Dreamdark) is well developed with a rich history. The stories of the Djinn, heroes of the past, the Silksinger clan and how they came to be guardians of Azazel, and many others are woven throughout the tale.

Silksinger has action, adventure, vivid and unforgettable characters, and a well-realized setting. Although it can be a bit predictable, that does not detract from this fantastic novel very much, and I loved it even more than the first book in this series.


Reviews of other books in this series:

Today I read a very interesting interview with Catherine Asaro. She discusses everything from some of her favorite things to her absolute favorite character she writes to the next Skolian book. The next Ruby Dynasty book will be called Carnelians, and although it is a stand alone, Catherine said it also ties in with Diamond Star and The Ruby Dice.

There is also a chance to win a copy of Diamond Star (Skolian Empire series – romantic science fiction), the Diamond Star CD, or a copy of The Night Bird (The Lost Continent series – fantasy romance).

Best Served Cold
by Joe Abercrombie
512pp (Hardcover)
My Rating: 8/10
Amazon Rating: 4.5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 3.94/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.23/5

Best Served Cold is a stand alone novel by Joe Abercrombie set in the same world as his First Law trilogy with a different set of main characters. It takes place sometime after the end of the series, although I’m not sure exactly how much time has passed other than it must have been at least a couple of years. Although I enjoyed the First Law trilogy, I preferred Best Served Cold since it seemed tighter and better paced, for the most part.

Monza, the infamous leader of a band of mercenaries called the Thousand Swords, fights on the side of Grand Duke Orso of Talins in his war to become King of Styria. She and her brother Benna visit Orso to deliver the news of her latest victory, and as expected, Orso is greatly pleased by the tidings. However, Orso is not so grateful that he wishes to risk his throne being taken over by the two when he realizes Monza’s popularity with the people far outreaches his own. Due to this potential threat, Orso has planned to have both of them murdered. Benna, who was never much of a fighter, is killed rather quickly and thrown from the terrace. After a struggle, Monza is thrown down the mountain where she lands atop her brother’s dead body, and she survives even though she is terribly injured.

Once Monza recovers, all she can think about is vengeance and she will not rest until all seven men who were present during her attempted murder are as dead as her brother. For that purpose, she hires a small group of assorted men and women to help her with her cause – a master poisoner and his assistant, a former torturer, a convict fixated on numbers, a drunken ex-mercenary, and a Northman looking to make a new start in a new place as a better man. Together they plot to take down each of the seven men, one by one.

Whether or not I would recommend beginning with Best Served Cold instead of the First Law trilogy depends on reader preference (and I wouldn’t recommend either to readers who have issues with violence, language, sexual content, and reading about people who aren’t exactly noble). Best Served Cold is a more tightly focused novel about vengeance (of course). The First Law trilogy is traditional epic fantasy with more magic, a wider view of the world, and larger scale events. Overall, I did prefer Best Served Cold to the First Law trilogy, but it also does have some parts that are more fun if you are familiar with characters from the previous novels. Also, starting with Best Served Cold then reading the trilogy means you may know some of how it ends, although I don’t think there are enough details mentioned that any big events would be spoiled. Most of the references to major characters from the series are so vague that I suspect I would have forgotten about them by the time I went back and read the First Law had I begun with Best Served Cold. Of course, Best Served Cold is also shorter despite its length since it is self-contained rather than being composed of three volumes, each of which is longer than the previous one.

Best Served Cold follows a clearly defined structure for the entire novel once the prologue is complete. Each section is prefaced by a few pages about Monza and Benna’s past, with each section revealing more about the two and how you may not know as much about them as initially thought. Due to this method of weaving past and present, the fun dialogue, the not-so-morally-good characters, and the early plot’s focus on using more brains than brawn to reach an end goal, it reminded me a bit of The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch at first. Further into the book, there was a lot more focus on fighting and battles, though, and it reminded me less of Lies the more I read. The middle actually got a bit bogged down with too many fight scenes and it slowed the pacing down, but I tend to enjoy reading about battles of wits to battles involving weaponry, so perhaps others won’t feel those parts dragged out as much as I did.

Like the First Law trilogy, most of the characters are not people you would want to be friends with since they are on nobody’s side but their own. In spite of that (or perhaps because of that, depending on your point of view), they are all very interesting and fun to read about, particularly since the banter between them is very entertaining and often made me laugh out loud. They each have their own little quirks, such as the mercenary who lived for drink, and the Northman who ended up as a part of Monza’s set of hired killers when he came to Styria to get away from killing. What I particularly enjoyed about the characters (in addition to their cynical but oftentimes hilarious outlook on life) was the way in which they were presented. Some of them are revealed to in fact be far better than they appear the more you read – while others end up being far worse. (Even so, none of them are exactly angels – they are all part of a group of hired killers, after all.) Yet I never got the impression that any of them were pure evil but rather a product of circumstances, their past and present situations. They were just doing the best they could to survive in a harsh world where the law is every man for himself.

Best Served Cold is a darkly humorous tale of vengeance filled with schemes and skirmishes. The characters are not models of goodness but also did not seem too despicable since they all had reasons for their behavior. They were certainly amusing enough to keep it from feeling too depressing even when events were not turning out in their favor.


Read the Prologue

Other Reviews: